How to use the emergency refuge areas on smart motorways

Smart motorway refuge area

Emergency refuge areas are a safe haven for stranded vehicles on busy smart motorways – but alarmingly, more than half of motorists don’t know what they are or how to use them.

That’s according to research by the RAC, which surveyed 2,000 drivers and found only 1.5 percent had ever used an emergency refuge area.

To clarify, emergency refuge areas, look similar to laybys and are located on stretches of motorway where there is no hard shoulder, or the hard shoulder is sometimes opened as a live lane .

They are usually highlighted in orange (see above) and are only meant to be used in an emergency – something 98 percent of motorists realise, according to the RAC research.

Make contact before re-joining the motorway

What many drivers don’t realise, however, is that you’re supposed to contact Highways England before rejoining the motorway if the hard shoulder is a running lane.

If you didn’t know this, you’re not alone – just one respondent to the RAC survey did.

Do you know how to use emergency refuge areas on smart motorways?

“It is essential that motorists understand how and when to use an emergency refuge area so they do not put their own safety and that of other road users at risk,” said the RAC’s chief engineer, David Bizley.

“Vehicles should pull up to the indicated mark on the tarmac or the emergency telephone and then the occupants should leave the vehicle from the passenger side.

“Everyone should stand behind the barriers and should use the emergency roadside telephone provided to speak to a Highways England representative.”

What is a smart motorway?

So-called ‘Smart’ motorways have become increasingly widespread, including the M25 and sections of the M6 and M1.

Traffic flow is controlled using variable speed limits displayed on the overhead gantries. Cameras monitor the motorways and lanes can be closed remotely if required, for example if a vehicle breaks down.

Emergency refuge areas are located on smart motorways and should be positioned every 1.5 miles, with an emergency roadside phone available to request assistance.

Smart motorways allow the hard shoulder to be opened as a live lane during busy periods to ease congestion. However, after a number of fatalities, this option is likely to be removed.

A consultation is currently in progress and the results are due soon.

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What to do after a car accident

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What to do after a car accident

What to do when you have a car accident

A car crash is one of the worst things you can experience on the road. From damage to your car to possible injuries to your person – or to others – it’s an experience we all hope to avoid.

Unlike many shocking and traumatic events, though, there’s a to-do list to follow immediately after a car accident. Here’s our step-by-step guide.

Always stop

What to do when you have a car accident

Failing to stop after a collision is illegal. If you drive away, you could wind up with a six-month prison sentence or a £5,000 fine.

Stop and turn off the engine – given the car could be unsafe to drive – but switch the hazard lights on.

If you have a warning triangle, place it to the side of the incident where cars are approaching. Be careful not risk your own safety by standing in the road.

Also, as one reader points out in the comments below, don’t use a warning triangle on the motorway – you’ll be breaking the Highway Code if you do. 

Check the people involved

It’s a courtesy as much as a necessity, but speak to everyone involved and check they are OK.

You’ll also want to get an impression of the other driver, if one is involved. Try to assess whether they may be under the influence of drink or drugs.

Use your mobile phone to call the relevant emergency services if needed, be it police or ambulance, and don’t be afraid to flag down another motorist for help.

Assess the damage

What to do when you have a car accident

Once you have dealt with the people, check over the vehicles. Make a note of all the damage caused, including inside the cars (if an airbag has deployed, for example).

You’ll also want to check whether any personal items, including clothes, have been damaged by the incident. Take photos if you can.

Note down details of the other car, too – including the make, model, registration number and colour.

Also write down the location, weather conditions and time of the accident.

Exchange details

What to do when you have a car crash

Swap phone, address and insurance details with the other driver involved.

Note down the names of everyone involved, including witnesses and the ID numbers of emergency services personnel on the scene.

As an aside, it’s a good idea to keep a notepad in your car for such situations, although the notes function on your phone will also do the job.

Tell your insurer about the accident

What to do when you have a car accident

As soon as is convenient, preferably at the scene, inform your insurance company about what has happened. You don’t have to go through it all in the moment, just let them know.

When the time comes to talk through the accident more fully, be sure to have your insurance documents to hand.

If the accident happens outside your insurance company’s operational hours, you should be able to call a recovery line for assistance.

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How to keep cool when driving in hot weather

Staying cool in hot weather

The hottest day of 2020 so far is expected this week, as temperatures soar to 34deg C. The heatwave has led the Met Office to issue a level two alert for most of England.

Keeping yourself and your car cool can be difficult in these conditions – but it’s vital in order to drive safely and reliably.

Following these tips should prevent a meltdown when the temperature creeps up.

Keeping your cool

Keeping cool in hot weather

Heat-shielding sun shades

The real winners during a heatwave are those who leave a reflective sun shade in their windscreen. These are great for bouncing back solar energy away from your car’s interior.

Air conditioning

Highway Code rule 237 states: ‘Keep your vehicle well ventilated to avoid drowsiness’.

At lower speeds, try opening a window to keep fresh air flowing through the car. You can keep the air conditioning on, too – otherwise, the outside air will soon make the cabin scorching hot – but having a window ajar will prevent it from drying out. Also, heat rises, so a slightly open window will let the warmest air out first. 

What about the extra fuel cost? It will be negligible around town – and the air-con will already be working hard. At speed, however, keep the windows up and air-con on to avoid causing drag and wasting fuel.

Classic Pepsi Ford Transit

 

Keep hydrated

Your body is reasonably well-equipped to sweat itself cool. Perspiration does use up water, though, so perhaps the most important thing on a hot day is to keep drinking. 

When driving, make sure there’s plenty of water on-board for all passengers. Remember: you can still get dehydrated if using air conditioning. 

Wear sunglasses

Wear a pair of sunglasses to avoid being dazzled, particularly by low morning or evening sun. It’s less of a factor in the summertime, but those commuting out of hours will still benefit.

Indeed, sunglasses can be essential at any time of year. Your car’s sun visors can only do so much, and you never know when you’ll be caught out by glare in a reflected windscreen or shopfront.

A decent pair of sunglasses might even help you look cooler, too… 

Keeping your car cool

5. Plan ahead

So, that’s you feeling chilled – now for your car. These tips will help prevent a breakdown caused by overheating.

Check your car

Your first line of defence is preparation. Make sure your car is well-serviced and topped up with fluids, including screenwash for those summer bugs. Check the oil and water temperature gauges regularly (if fitted) while driving. Forewarned is forearmed.

Plan ahead

This applies to you and your car. Planning ahead and taking a journey at the right time can improve your chances of getting there. Cooler hours of the day and less traffic are a win-win. 

It’s also worth noting that hot weather can affect public transport. So if you’re travelling by bus or train, check ahead of time for weather-related disruption. 

Keep water on-board for your car

Your car needs water, too. Being able to top up the cooling system on the go is invaluable, should the need arise.

If the temperature gauge is edging towards the red zone, pull over when safe and switch off the engine. However, don’t top up the water straight away. The system will still be under pressure and you’ll end up scalding yourself as boiling water sprays out. Allow the car to cool first

Turn the heating on… yes, really

If your car is getting too hot in traffic, consider switching the heating on. This will help evacuate some of that unwanted heat from the engine bay. Just try to aim the air vents out of the windows first.

After you have arrived

7. At your destination

When you arrive, avoid leaving pets in the car. If you must, make absolutely sure that you’re parked in the shade, and that windows are slightly open.

Remember those winners with sun shades from earlier, too. A shade in a windscreen makes for a cooler cabin.

Some cars let you open the windows remotely by holding down the unlock button on the key fob, which can help in high temperatures.

After the heatwave

Highway Code rule 237 also states: ‘If it rains after a dry spell [the road surface] may become slippery. These conditions could affect your steering and braking’.

This is the UK, after all, so expect some summer showers. When they come, remember the roads will be more slippery than in typical wet conditions.

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Hybrid Catalytic Converter Thefts

How to prevent catalytic converter theft from cars

Toyota Prius hybrid

Recent years have seen a dramatic increase in theft of catalytic converters from cars.

These exhaust components are highly sought-after by criminals due to the precious metals inside: palladium, platinum and rhodium.

According to Mail Online: ‘Prices of palladium have doubled over two years, while rhodium is four times higher – and both are currently more valuable than gold’. 

Catalytic converters (commonly known as ‘cats’) contain up to seven grams of these metals, making them worth several hundred pounds on the black market. And hybrid cars, notably the Toyota Prius, are particularly at risk.

Here’s what you need to know – including how to reduce the risk of catalytic converter theft from your car.

What does a catalytic converter do?

Hybrid Catalytic Converter Thefts

A catalytic converter is part of a modern car’s exhaust system. It processes the emissions from a combustion engine into less harmful gases, before releasing them into the atmosphere. 

Catalytic converters were first used in the 1970s, with the United States making them mandatory from 1975 onwards. They became a common feature of cars in the UK from 1992. 

Why are they a target for theft?

The chemical reaction that takes place within the converter requires precious metals to act as the actual catalyst. These include palladium, platinum and rhodium. 

Market values for these rare materials have increased substantially in the past 18 months.

Palladium can be sold for £1,500 per ounce, with rhodium worth up to £6,700 per ounce. Both figures are higher than the price of gold.

How do thieves steal catalytic converters?

Hybrid Catalytic Converter Thefts

As part of the exhaust system, catalytic converters are left exposed beneath most cars. This means thieves can simply slide under the car to remove them. SUVs are particularly at risk, as their raised ride height makes access beneath the car easier.

Some are bolted onto the exhaust, with other types being welded into place. The latter can be removed by cutting through the pipework to free the cat. 

Most catalytic converters are unmarked, meaning they cannot be easily traced to an individual vehicle. Once taken, they can be sold to unlicensed scrap metal dealers. 

Why are hybrid cars being targeted?

Hybrid Catalytic Converter Thefts

Hybrid vehicles, such as the Toyota Prius, account for a large proportion of the catalytic converters being stolen. 

Thieves target these vehicles as the catalytic converters are said to be less corroded. The hybrid drivetrain results in lower overall exhaust emissions, leaving the precious metals in better condition.

In turn, this makes them more valuable to sell on.

What are manufacturers doing to help?

The problem of catalytic converter theft is not new, with the AA noting that it has been an issue for more than a decade. This has given manufacturers time to develop ways of keeping cats safe.

Toyota offers a special ‘Catloc’ device, which can be retrofitted to a number of vehicles made by the manufacturer. Priced between £200 to £250 including fitting, Toyota has said it sells the Catloc without making a profit. 

The company has also reduced the price of replacement catalytic converters, and increased production to help get drivers back on the road quicker. 

What can I do to protect my catalytic converter?

Hybrid Catalytic Converter Thefts

Not all cars are at such risk, with some models having the catalytic converter mounted within the engine bay. This makes it much harder to steal. Drivers should check with their local dealership if they are unsure. 

The Met Police has also published advice on reducing the risk of your cat being stolen. The tips include:

  • Parking your car in a garage overnight
  • Trying to park in a location that is well-lit and overlooked
  • Installing CCTV to cover where your car is parked
  • Marking your catalytic converter with a forensic marker, which can make it harder to sell on 

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Diesel particulate filter warning light

Why are diesel particulate filters a problem?

Diesel particulate filter warning light

If you own or are thinking about buying a modern diesel car, you will probably have heard about diesel particulate filters. But what are they – and why can they be a problem for motorists?

A diesel particulate filter (DPF) is designed to capture and store exhaust soot to reduce emissions from diesel cars. It prevents harmful particulate matter from being released into the atmosphere.

A DPF has been a requirement of all new diesel cars since 2009 when the ‘Euro 5’ emissions standard came into force. However, particulate filters date back to 1985, when Mercedes became the first car to introduce them on the 300D (sold in California).

Later, in 2000, the PSA Group re-introduced the principle when it used a cerium-based fuel additive for regeneration on the Peugeot 607 2.2 HDi.

Today, there are two main types of DPF: passive regeneration and active regeneration.

Passive regeneration

Passive regeneration uses normal exhaust temperatures and nitrogen oxide (NO2) as the catalyst to oxidise particulate matter in the DPF. This tends to occur at high speeds, typically on a motorway or A-road, with the engine running for 30 minutes or more.

The main advantages of passive regeneration are that it requires no input from the driver, the process takes place automatically and there are fewer components.

However, it relies on the motorist making regular trips on motorways and A-roads, and without this, problems can occur. It’s for this reason that manufacturers introduced so-called active regeneration.

Active regeneration

Active regeneration uses the car’s ECU to sense when the filter is getting clogged with soot and injects extra fuel into the engine to raise the temperature of the exhaust, triggering regeneration.

This tends to occur around every 250 to 300 miles and will take up to 10 minutes to complete. In theory, this shouldn’t cause any issues, but problems will occur if the system is unable to complete the regeneration.

If the process is interrupted too many times, the DPF warning light will illuminate and you’re advised to take the car to a motorway, dual carriageway or A-road for 15 minutes for regeneration. If you continue to ignore the warning light, the car will go into ‘limp home’ mode.

There is a third form of DPF, which uses a fuel additive to lower the ignition temperature of the ignition temperature of the soot particles to enable the regeneration to happen at a lower temperature. The additive is stored in a separate tank or ‘bladder’ and should be replaced every 70,000 to 100,000 miles.

Make sure the tank is refilled when a warning light appears on the dashboard because, without the fluid, the DPF will become blocked.

Oil dilution

A significant disadvantage associated with active regeneration is the dilution of the engine oil caused by a small amount of diesel during the post-injection cycles, where fuel is injected into the cylinder after the regular combustion. A thin layer of fuel can build up on the cylinder walls, which leads to premature engine wear, and drivers are warned to consider shorter oil service intervals.

There have been various studies into the engine oil dilution issue and the scale of the problem varies according to the make and model of the diesel car in question. Evidence suggests that the problem is worsened when the regeneration process is halted prematurely or when a car is used for short trips.

Modern systems should alert the driver via a dashboard message when the oil dilution reaches a certain level, but regular services remain critical to the long-term health of the engine. There have been some high-profile issues concerning some major car brands.

The problems of a blocked DPF

Diesel exhaust

If regeneration doesn’t take place, the DPF will need to be cleaned or replaced, landing you with a bill upwards of £1,000. A quick trawl of some forums and discussion threads suggests you could be charged up to £5,000, which might be more than the car is worth.

That means it’s vitally important to look after your DPF and to pay close attention if you’re buying a high-mileage diesel car. A well-maintained DPF should have a life of 100,000 miles, or significantly lower if the car has been used for shorter trips and regular regeneration hasn’t taken place.

How to avoid a blocked DPF

To avoid a blocked DPF, you can start by not buying an inappropriate car. Typically, if you drive less than 12,000 miles a year, a petrol, hybrid or electric car would be more suitable for your needs.

Diesel cars are more expensive to buy and tend to be more economical on longer trips, making them unsuitable for short trips and urban driving.

If you’re driving a diesel car with a DPF fitted, read the manual to understand whether your vehicle uses passive or active regeneration, and make sure you know how to look after the filter. Using the right engine oil is very important.

The RAC says that performance modifications can damage a DPF, as can the use of low-quality fuel. Even running the car low on diesel can cause problems as the car may avoid regeneration to save fuel.

Can you remove a DPF?

Diesel particulate filter removal

It is an offence to use a vehicle modified in a way that it no longer complies the emissions standards it was designed to meet. To this end, the removal of a DPF would land you with a £1,000 fine for a car or £2,500 for a light goods vehicle.

Further issues include an immediate MOT fail if the DPF has been removed, along with invalid insurance as the car has been modified from original specification.

Obviously, you need to be on your guard if you’re buying a high-mileage diesel car. Insist on seeing the latest MOT certificate – details are stored online – and check the DPF is present.

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How to save money on motoring

Money-saving motoring secrets

Motoring costs can account for a huge chunk of your monthly budget. And with economic uncertainty ahead, many are looking to cut costs.

Fortunately, it’s quite easy to reduce the amount you spend on driving. Some these tips will save you pennies, others will save you pounds, but they all add up.

Read on for our -easy-to-follow guide on how to reduce your motoring costs.

Ditch the diesel and buy a petrol car

Money-saving motoring secrets

Diesel is no longer a guaranteed way to save money. For starters, diesel cars cost more than petrol cars – on a supermini-sized car, the premium can be 10 percent or more.

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Diesel will cost you more at the pumps, and while these engines usually give better economy, efficient new petrol motors are catching up. Unless your annual mileage is very high, you should stick to petrol.

Check your tyre pressures

Money-saving motoring secrets

This simple check can save you plenty. Sure, it might cost you 50p or £1 to check your pressures at a petrol station, but the savings soon add up.

Tyres underinflated by 15psi – a difference you may not notice from a visual glance – can use six percent more fuel. That’s the difference between averaging 40mpg and 42mpg.

Find cheaper fuel

Money-saving motoring secrets

Use a website like Petrolprices.com to find the cheapest fuel in your area. The difference can be huge, adding up to many pennies per litre. Be warned: driving out of your way to pick up cheap fuel is a false economy, which becomes even more negligible the less economical your car.

Never fill up at a motorway services unless you’re desperate for fuel – the costs can be astronomical.

Share your car

Money-saving motoring secrets

Do you need to drive? Could you car share instead? You don’t even need to know someone going in the same direction: services such as BlaBlaCar bring trusted carpooling to everyone.

Simply enter where you are and where you want to go, and the service will search for available rides. You can even add your own car to the service.

Empty your boot

Money-saving motoring secrets

Don’t carry unnecessary weight around with you. A boot full of junk means you’re using extra fuel for nothing. Emptying it out will give small savings that will add up the more you drive, particularly if your motoring is mainly stop-start driving.

While you’re there, remember to remove your roof rack and roof box when they’re not in use.

Take an advanced driving course

Money-saving motoring secrets

An advanced course will teach you how to drive economically – you’ll still make good progress but be doing it in a more efficient way.

Hypermiling is the art of driving as economically as possible and once you take on the challenge, it can become addictive.

Haggle for cheaper insurance

Money-saving motoring secrets

Car insurance is one of the biggest motoring costs you face. Never accept your auto-renewal quote – give your insurer a call to see if you can haggle and reduce it.

Better still, arm yourself with a car insurance comparison quote, to see how well your figure compares.

Add family members to your car insurance

Money-saving motoring secrets

We’re not recommending ‘fronting’, which is where a parent insures their child’s car in their name and adds them as a named driver, even though the parent never drives the car. This is illegal.

However, adding your partner as a named driver on the family car can balance the risk and reduce your premium by a few pounds.

Do some basic pre-MOT checks

Money-saving motoring secrets

There are really simple things you can check for prior to an MOT – whether your bulbs are all working, the condition of your tyres, the state of your windscreen wipers, even if the washer bottle contains any fluid.

No matter how simple they are, the garage won’t rectify them before completing the MOT, and will fail you for the most minor faults. Why risk the inconvenience and potential expense?

Appeal against parking tickets

Money-saving motoring secrets

Think you’ve been unfairly caught out by a parking ticket? Try appealing it.

Provide evidence, check the terms and conditions, present a compelling case, and sometimes the ticket can be overturned.

Find cheap or free parking spaces in advance

Money-saving motoring secrets

Don’t park in the closest car park you can find, or the one you know the best. Check there isn’t a cheaper one nearby first, using apps such as Parkopedia.

Particularly in big cities, this can save you a fortune. If you’re travelling to an unfamiliar place, plan your parking in advance.

Source car parts yourself

Money-saving motoring secrets

Been quoted big money by a dealer to replace parts? Consider buying them yourself online and using a local garage to fit them. This can potentially save you several hundred pounds.

If you’re running an older car, eBay can be helpful in sourcing rare parts and accessories.

Don’t overestimate your annual mileage for insurance

Money-saving motoring secrets

If you tell your insurance company you cover 10,000 miles a year but you actually drive far less, you could be paying for a higher-risk premium than is actually the case.

Give the company a realistic figure instead – but don’t underestimate, or you could be left without cover.

Keep off the kerb

Money-saving motoring secrets

It’s amazing how many people drive up and down kerbs. This damages the metal wires in the sidewall of the tyre (and often the alloy wheel itself), and will eventually lead to a puncture.

Not only will avoiding driving up and down kerbs save you money, it will also keep you safe.

Park away from other vehicles

Money-saving motoring secrets

If your car is on finance, it will be assessed for condition before you hand it back. You’ll be charged if any rectification is needed. An easy way to reduce the risk of damage it to park away from other cars, so their car doors can’t damage it, and they can’t scrape it when driving in and out.

Remember, even small car park panel dents are logged by the dealer on the condition report.

Buy a smartphone holder

Money-saving motoring secrets

If you are caught using a hand-held mobile phone behind the wheel, you face a £200 fine and six points on your licence.

Use your smartphone for navigation or as an audio player? Then avoid the risk by installing it in a smartphone holder.

Don’t use your windscreen wipers on ice

Money-saving motoring secrets

Windscreen wipers can cost £20 or more to replace and they’ll wear out much more quickly if you use them on ice in winter.

Scrape the screen or use de-icer instead to avoid damaging your wiper blades.

Don’t press the accelerator when you start the car

Money-saving motoring secrets

Every new car has engine electronics that regulate the car starting procedure. In the past, you needed to use a little gas to get the car running, but this is no longer necessary.

So don’t waste the extra fuel and risk damage to your engine by doing it: the car will start cleanly without.

Drive gently when the car is cold

Money-saving motoring secrets

Cars are at their least efficient when they are cold. If you drive quickly straight from start-up, you are redoubling the wasted fuel, and also wearing out the engine more quickly in the process.

Show some mechanical sympathy and you’ll immediately start saving money.

Stick to your PCP mileage limit

Money-saving motoring secrets

If your PCP car finance scheme covers you for 9,000 miles a year and you actually cover 10,000 miles a year, you face excess mileage surcharges at the end of it. These can be punitive, but even a minor-sounding 0.06p per mile surcharge adds up to a £180 bill if you go 3,000 miles over.

Often, it would have been cheaper to factor this mileage into the PCP deal in the first place.

Don’t pay extra for premium fuel

Money-saving motoring secrets

Fuel sold in the UK is some of the best in the world. If you have a regular car with a normal-output engine, standard 95-octane unleaded fuel or everyday diesel will be fine. Y

ou won’t feel any benefit from using higher-octane premium fuels, but will notice the significant extra expense when you fill up.

Consider joining a car club

Money-saving motoring secrets

Don’t use your car much? You might save money by simply borrowing a car whenever you need one, rather than paying out for tax and insurance on a car you only use occasionally.

Car clubs usually let you reserve cars via an online app, and you can often borrow them for anything from half an hour to a couple of days. Many clubs cost as little as 30p a minute or £5 an hour for all-inclusive use, or you can pay more for a bigger or more upmarket car.

Monitor your fuel economy

Money-saving motoring secrets

Don’t rely on the trip computer to monitor fuel economy – they’re not always accurate – but use an app on your phone to calculate your MPG every time you fill up.

Once you know how well it performs, work out how you can improve it – and challenge yourself by making a game of it.

Wash your car yourself

Money-saving motoring secrets

Hand car wash centres charge just a few pounds and save you effort, so where’s the harm? Well, even a £5 fortnightly car wash adds up to £120 a year.

Doing it yourself will not only save you money, it will also allow you to keep an eye on the condition of your car and get any damage rectified before it gets too bad.

Know how to buy economical tyres

Money-saving motoring secrets

Need new tyres? While it might be tempting to go for the cheapest available, that can prove to be a mistake in the long run. Not only are such tyres inferior in terms of braking and handling, but they may also hit your fuel economy.

All tyres sold are fitted with an EU tyre label with a fuel efficiency rating. An ‘A’ rating means the tyre decreases the energy lost through the tyre (often referred to as ‘low rolling resistance’), while a G rating is the worst performing, resulting in increased CO2 emissions and fuel consumption.

Use your smartphone to avoid extra parking charges

Money-saving motoring secrets

Paid for parking? Not returning to your car in time can prove expensive if you’re hit with a fine. But many parking companies offer a service that lets you use an app on your phone to pay for parking.

Although there is a small convenience fee, it’ll notify you when your parking is nearly up – and you can extend it remotely so you’re not caught out.

If you’re young, research car insurance carefully

Money-saving motoring secrets

Unfortunately, being a young driver means you’re going to get stung for car insurance. But there are ways to make it cheaper. Try getting quotes for a wide variety of cars. Although you’d expect small cars in low insurance groups to be cheaper to insure, you might find a few exceptions.

Use comparison sites to shop around and try approaching a few companies directly. Also consider a ‘black box’ telematics policy to help you build up a no-claims discount.

Buy road tax annually, not monthly

Money-saving motoring secrets

You can pay vehicle excise duty (VED) annually, monthly or every six months. Many opt for monthly, but it works out more expensive over the entire year. Pay the full amount at the start of the year to know that it’s paid for the rest of the year.

If you’re strapped for cash, consider taking out a zero percent interest credit card and setting up a direct debit to pay it off over the year. It’ll work out cheaper than choosing the monthly option.

Comprehensive insurance might be cheapest

Money-saving motoring secrets

If you’re on a budget, many assume third-party insurance (the minimum legal requirement which only covers damage to other vehicles) will be the cheapest. But try getting quotes for fully comprehensive cover.

The weird algorithm of insurance companies’ computers often means it’s cheaper than third-party only.

Buy a classic car over 40 years old to save on VED

Money-saving motoring secrets

You could save money by buying a classic car. Vehicles registered more than 40 years ago are exempt from paying tax, which could make for a significant saving.

Buy sensibly and you could also save on insurance – and the car might even appreciate in value.

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What to do if you fill your car with the wrong fuel

What to do if you fill your car with the wrong fuel

wrong fuel in car

Filling your car with the wrong fuel in your car sounds like the kind of problem that happens to somebody else.

But, according to the RAC, it happens every three minutes in the UK – affecting around 150,000 motorists every year.

It’s surprisingly easy to do, especially when it concerns putting petrol in a diesel car, because a petrol pump nozzle will fit into most diesel car filler caps.

That’s not to say it’s impossible to put diesel in a petrol car, but the diesel nozzle is larger than the majority of petrol filler necks, making it far less common.

In either case, do not start the engine.

The severity of the problem will depend on how much incorrect fuel you have put in the tank, and whether you’ve put petrol in a diesel car or diesel in a petrol car.

We’ll take each scenario in turn.

Putting petrol in a diesel car

oil price drops should mean petrol savings for motorists says RAC

Around 95 percent of wrong fuel mistakes occur when petrol is poured into a diesel tank.

Sadly, running a petrol car with diesel causes more damage, so your wallet is likely to take more of a pounding. Not to mention your pride.

Again, whatever you do, do not start the engine.

Do not even switch on your ignition, as this could kickstart the fuel pump, circulating the mixed fuel around the engine.

In a diesel car, the diesel acts as a lubricant, whereas petrol acts as a solvent, causing damage to the fuel system.

Without lubrication, the fuel pump will create internal friction, with the high-pressure injectors also affected.

A replacement common rail injector system could set you back thousands of pounds – potentially more than the value of the car.

As soon as you notice your mistake, click off the fuel filler pump and stop fuelling. If you’ve added a small amount of petrol to a diesel tank, you could get away with filling the rest of the tank with diesel.

That’s because a mix of 5 percent petrol and 95 percent diesel is unlikely to damage the fuel system and engine.

Better to be safe than sorry, mind, so inform the staff at the filling station counter, who will either put a cone behind your car to warn other motorists that the pump is closed, or arrange for the car to be pushed away.

Remember, do not start it, although turning the key from ‘lock’ to ‘accessory’ might be required to release the steering lock.

petrol station at night

Next, call your breakdown provider or one of the misfuelling companies listed on the internet.

Alternatively, if you have taken out misfuelling insurance cover, get in touch with your insurance provider who will arrange for the draining and removal of the contaminated fuel.

Insurance cover is unlikely to be provided by your standard policy – research conducted by GoCompare in 2015 found that just 9 percent of comprehensive policies covered the cost of draining and cleaning the tank. A further 3 percent of the policies would provide cover as an optional extra.

Whether you’ve contacted a breakdown company, a misfuelling expert or your insurance provider, wait with your car for help to arrive.

Cleaning and flushing the system should take anything from 30 minutes to an hour, and will set you back around £200.

Once the system has been drained of petrol, the tank will need filling with diesel and primed to remove any air from the system.

In the worst case scenario – say you’ve started the engine or have driven the car before noticing a problem – you may have to be towed to a nearby garage for further investigation and repairs. This could mean a total bill running into the thousands.

Putting diesel in a petrol car

filling up with diesel

Filling a petrol car with diesel is a less serious mistake – and the damage isn’t as severe – but you should follow the same steps.

If you start the engine, the spark plugs and fuel system will be coated in diesel, leading to a misfire and smoke from the exhaust, before the car grinds to a halt.

Alternatively, the engine will fail to start or just stop.

Again, don’t start the engine – simply call for help and follow the instructions outlined above.

The good news is that the damage won’t be serious and no lasting damage will be caused.

How to prevent misfuelling

Most misfuelling errors occur after a lapse in concentration or after a motorist has switched from one type of car to another. Always double check the nozzle before filling up.

If you drive a diesel car, consider buying a misfuel prevention device, such as a Fuel Angel. It replaces the existing filler cap and prevents a petrol nozzle from fitting into a diesel filler neck.

They cost £40, which is far cheaper than the cost of flushing the system or more expensive repairs.

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How to stay healthy, safe and happy when driving

Stay healthy behind the wheel

We recently revealed how dirty car interiors really are, and how well they harbour bacteria and viruses – including COVID-19. 

As the UK lockdown eases a little, driving is now permitted for medical reasons (e.g. to visit a hospital or provide care), commuting to work (if you are unable to work at home), shopping for food and other necessities, and travelling to a different location for exercise (e.g. a park). 

However, with the added risks – and strain on the emergency services – associated with the pandemic, we recommend you don’t drive further than necessary for exercise. Those who are self-isolating should avoid driving altogether.

Those are the basic rules at present. But driving can also pose risks to your health more generally – including through stress and a poor diet.

According to data from the Trades Union Congress (TUC), Manchester’s commuters spend 48 hours a year stuck in traffic, while for Londoners it’s 50 hours.

With that in mind – and some helpful advice from Nationwide Vehicle Contracts –we’ve put together some easy-to-follow tips for staying healthy on the road.

Take some time for yourself 

Stay healthy behind the wheel

One of the advantages of a long commute is you have time to yourself. How you keep your mind busy, while of course paying attention to your driving, can be the difference between a bad drive and a good one.

Time for reflection is helpful, without the distraction of text messages, social media and so on. Enjoy the downtime and you’ll hit the ground running when you arrive at work.

Long commutes are also the perfect opportunity to educate yourself with audiobooks, podcasts and music. You could learn a language, develop a new interest, or simply broaden your knowledge. 

Make your commute more fun

Stay healthy behind the wheel

It may sound obvious, and maybe a bit silly, but a good first port of call for a pick-me-up on the road is putting on your favourite tunes and having a good singalong.

A study by Nature Research found that listening to ‘heroic’ music can up your mood. Line up that Avengers soundtrack…

Listening to music too loud can get you in trouble, though. Bradford council tried to pass a law that would see drivers playing loud music fined £100.

Dare we suggest the right car could boost your driving enjoyment, too? Thankfully, that doesn’t mean spending lots of money: a second-hand Mazda MX-5 or Volkswagen Golf GTI will make any journey more fun.

Take up a hobby

Stay healthy behind the wheel

Being crafty around your commute can free up time. Finish work at five, but traffic doesn’t calm down until half-six? Get a gym membership near your work, so you can either get in early or leave late. Either way, that hour-and-a-half commute might shrink to 50 minutes if you devote a bit of time to your fitness.

The other plus points are well-known. Burning calories will keep you healthy, and a bit of exercise releases good endorphins. A good mood, made better by clear morning or evening roads. A win-win.

Work in the city? Break up your commute by leaving your car on the outskirts, then walking or taking public transport. It could save you time, money (depending on where you are) and boost your mood. A bit more exercise is rarely a bad thing.

Give yourself enough time 

Stay healthy behind the wheel

Needless to say, a rushed drive is a stressful drive – and you’re more likely to make poor decisions behind the wheel. Get ahead of the traffic, roadworks and any other obstacles by leaving with time to spare. 

Then there’s the obvious problem of the law. Driving carelessly can land with a £100 fine and three points. The job of driving should always be top of your priority list. 

Keep your car tidy

How bad are our cars for harbouring diseases?

We’ve saved the nagging for the end, but it’s necessary all the same. Maintain the place where you spend two hours of your day, and your mood and health will likely improve. 

From crumbs to clutter, you’re better off without it all. Have a good clear-out and rediscover your car’s cabin.

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Yellow box junction

Yellow box junctions: how to avoid a penalty

Yellow box junctionYellow box junctions can catch drivers unawares – and result in a hefty fine. Many are monitored by enforcement cameras, which can automatically process penalties.

Our guide will help you obey the rules and avoid a £130 charge.

Most yellow box junctions are found in urban areas, where tailbacks can block opposing traffic flow. Until recently, only local councils in London and Cardiff could issue fines for ‘moving traffic violations’. However, drivers across the UK now face the same rules. 

According to research by the RAC, eight in 10 drivers say they struggle to drive cleanly through yellow box junctions. And nearly half admit to getting stuck in them accidentally, with one in three blaming other law-breaking motorists for their infringement.

Breaking the rules of yellow box junctions

An investigation by Click4Reg found that London councils earned up to £520,000 from moving traffic violations every day. The City of London borough issued nearly 200,000 penalties in 2017-2018, raking in almost £25 million as a result.

Read on for the facts about yellow box junctions.

Yellow box junctions: what you need to know

What is the point of a yellow box junction?

A box junction keeps traffic flowing by marking out an area of road space that should be kept clear at all times.

When can I drive into a yellow box junction?

You are only meant to enter a box junction if your exit is clear – in other words, if you can drive all the way through it without stopping.

Am I ever allowed to stop in a yellow box junction?

If you are turning right, you can stop in a box junction if oncoming traffic prevents you from doing so – but only if your exit is clear.

What is the penalty for stopping in a yellow box junction?

You can be fined up to £130 for unlawfully stopping in a yellow box. 

Will I get points on my licence for breaking yellow box rules?

No, you will not receive penalty points on your driving licence for a yellow box offence.

Why do people get wound up about yellow box junctions?

Motorists get annoyed with box junction transgressors because everyone else gets blocked, along with the offending driver. It is considered one of the more ‘selfish’ motoring offences.

I think I remember something about them from my driving test…

Well remembered! Yellow box junctions are covered by rule 174 of the Highway Code.

Watch: how to use a yellow box junction

RAC spokesperson Simon Williams said: “Our research shows yellow box junctions are a very divisive issue with drivers.

“There is a strong feeling that many junctions are not set up fairly, which leads to drivers having no choice but stop in them, whether that’s due to poor traffic light sequencing, poor design or being used in the wrong place.

The RAC adds that authorities should carefully analyse every box junction before installing a camera, to confirm it’s possible to drive through without stopping.

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How to save money on car insurance

How to save money on your car insurance

Insurance is one of the biggest expenses associated with running a car, but there are ways to save money on your annual premium.

No specific advice can guarantee cheap insurance for all, but here’s a general guide on how to cut the cost of your cover. And the things you definitely shouldn’t do…

Buy the right car

This seems obvious and, of course, there’s probably a whole other article here. Generally speaking, the more powerful the car’s engine, the costlier its insurance.

Equally, choosing a more expensive car will also bump up the cost, as will any model considered a theft-magnet. Ask anyone who drives a Volkswagen Golf R.

If affordable insurance is your prerogative, a humble hatchback beats a racy sports car. Check out our list of the cheapest cars for young drivers to insure.

For many reading this, though, that won’t matter. You have your car and simply want the lowest quote. 

Shop around – and haggle 

Many drivers get complacent about car insurance. Put in the legwork, shop around and switch providers if necessary. Never simply accept your renewal quote.

Try the price comparison sites, but also contact insurance companies directly. It’s mostly up to chance which provider gives you the best deal, so it’s worth talking to all of them.

Research by Consumer Intelligence shows haggling with your existing provider at renewal time could save you money, too. One in five drivers who haggle are offered lower premiums by their existing insurer, who will frequently match the best price quoted elsewhere.

Get your story straight

cheap car insurance

There are a number of things you must tell an insurer about yourself and your driving career. These include: how old you are, how long you’ve been driving, if you’ve had any accidents and when, what you do for work, where you live, how much you drive and so on.

While you must tell the truth, there is some leeway. Your career for instance, can be listed in a number of different ways. A photographer might be a videographer or a multimedia assistant. A bricklayer is a builder is a labourer . Play with the variables, but don’t stray from the truth.

It’s worthwhile working out how far you drive, too. The number of miles you cover in a year will affect your quote. Lower is better, in most cases.

Consider different types of policy

There are generally two types of policy: third-party, fire and theft, and fully comprehensive. If your car is worth anything over £500, we’d recommend fully comprehensive.

Third-party policies do not cover the cost of repairing or replacing your vehicle in the event of an accident – only the car or object you crash into. Third-party is often a last resort taken by new drivers to get their premium down.

Multi-car policies are interesting, however. Whether you’re living with your parents or have flown the nest, they can offer significant savings. Likewise, if you live with a partner and you both drive, it’s definitely worth checking whether you can share a multi-car policy.

Young drivers can also be added to a parent’s policy – fully-comp, with the ability to earn a no-claims bonus – for potentially a lot less than insuring themselves. 

Have a black box fitted

It’s not the most pleasing of solutions, but a black box telematics systen watching your every move behind the wheel may lead insurance companies to charge you less.

They have become a mainstay of the newly-passed young driver. Indeed, many companies insist on a black box for the youngest road users.

Move somewhere safer

car insurance

Location is a big factor in the cost of car insurance, whether you park on the road or keep your car garaged.

Perhaps you should consider moving away from Carjack Alley and closer to Upstanding Avenue.

Don’t crash

Obviously, not crashing is a good thing in general. Never mind the immediate stresses of a prang, for the next three years (at least), your insurance will be more expensive.

That’s all thanks to the no-claims bonus you shattered – along with someone else’s headlight…

Get older

With age and experience come a great many things, including cheaper car insurance. Both 21 and 25 are big milestones when it comes to lower quotes.

If you can afford to go without a car, sit on your licence until you’re a bit older. Pass your test as early as possible, though. Remember, insurance companies will ask how long you’ve had your licence when totting up quotes.

How NOT to save money on car insurance

Car insurance

Be honest about everything – simple as that. Don’t lie about modifications, the miles you’ll be driving, where you live, what you do, or where the car is parked.

Any untruths will invalidate your policy in the event of an accident. It’s not worth the risk.

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